Met housing policy comes under fire

12 Sep 02
Labour's affordable housing policy for key workers has ignited a row between London's councils and the Metropolitan Police.

13 September 2002

London borough housing chiefs blasted the Met for undermining councils' key workers programmes by selling off scarce staff housing sites and failing to maintain their shrinking stock adequately.

Carl Powell, director of planning and transportation at Westminster City Council, said the Met's actions were 'ludicrous in light of the responsibility placed on public sector bodies to house vital staff, such as policemen.'

But the Met suggested to Public Finance that it was under no obligation to house officers under the government's initiative and that it was under pressure from the Home Office to raise cash for other services through the sale of staff housing. Both sides indicated that the confusion over responsibilities suggested that the government has not thought the initiative through.

At March 2002, the Met held a stock of 1,140 houses and flats, compared with 2,477 in 1992. The Met has received £160m from the sale of accommodation over the past ten years, but has not built any properties with the cash. Around 10% of stock lies empty.

The Met also revealed it had yet to house a single officer under the government's Starter Homes Initiative – it has received more than 200 applications – for which it had received £15.3m.

However, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Authority, which oversees the force, claimed it was 'the policy of the MPA to utilise housing as a recruitment, retention and transfer aid'.

Powell said: 'Their policy is counter-productive. It prevents officers from having any hope of living in the expensive areas in which they serve. The council must try to house these people, but the Met could help. Their actions undermine any attempts to recruit and retain staff, yet we get criticised for it.'

The MPA said: 'We welcome the affordable housing initiative. [But] budget issues have a wider impact, as does the need to expend capital to improve existing housing stock.'

He denied that the Met had to sell housing stock to meet targets set by the Home Office. But a source at the Met claimed: 'That certainly has an impact on our approach.'


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